Supa Gangsta, Extraordinary Gentelman is coming out on December 4. Are you feeling comfortable with where everything is right now?
Yes, I am. I feel confident and I feel great. I’m excited. I just can’t wait. I’m ecstatic.
When I interviewed you when Time is Money was coming out, it didn’t sound like you were that excited about it and the album did okay at retail. Will Supa Gangsta, Extraordinary Gentleman do better because you’re excited about the project?
Yeah. The energy is good and I’m having a good time. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and I’ve been through my trials and tribulations. I feel like I’m moving in the right direction, so I’m pretty happy.
How did things change for you when you made the move to Koch?
There’s definitely more work. I think it’s harder work and it’s more hands-on. You’re closer to the people you’re working with. It’s just more dedication and more grind.
Your new song “The Lox” off Supa Gangsta, Extraordinary Gentleman shows that you, Sheek and Jada still have that chemistry that initially drew fans into your music. How have you all managed to stay on the same page after all these years?
Teamwork makes the dream work. We’ve known each other for a lot of years from growing up with each other. It’s just having a dream in common. We rolled together a lot of years. We got money together. I think we just love doing what we do and I think that people appreciate that. I think we appreciate that. I think that keeps us all on point and it keeps the chemistry there.
“What Goes Around”, which features Ray J, focuses on having a good time and partying. How important is it to you to show fans that you can have a good time and relax?
I have fun. I love what I do. This is my job and this is what I do. You have to show that you’re willing to do what you gotta do when you do what you do. It’s important to let people know that you ain’t all crazy and trying to be thugged out all the time and things of that nature because it takes a toll on you and it messes with your business too. I’m a pretty cool dude, so I felt it was real important to show that. Gangsta rap is my thing, but a song like this is a very important thing as well.
What inspired you to write the Alchemist-produced “Pain”?
The beat. The beat had me in some kind of trance. I was feeling it and I felt like discussing that part of life – pain; going through it, going about it, accepting it, living with it.
Are songs like “Pain” hard for you to write?
No. I don’t write anything down. I just make it. I just sit there and make it. I give it a feeling. I just take it as it comes. I look at it like I’m expressing myself.
In “Pain,” you say it’s hard being a gangster rapper. What do you mean by that?
People just assume they know what you do. They assume they know what it is and what’s going on and they don’t understand what it is. They don’t have the slightest idea of the work you do and the work that goes into making videos. They assume rapping is the only aspect of your job. They don’t understand that it’s hard to make it by on a day-by-day basis without getting into a bunch of conflicts.
You also talk about “the long walk down the wrong path” in “Pain”. Do you have a lot of regrets over things that have happened in the past?
I have some regrets. I don’t have a lot of regrets. Your past makes you who you are. I just try to bring things to light. I don’t try to hide it. That’s why I said that. Taking a long walk down the wrong path is most people in the ‘hood. You’re on the wrong path and in the wrong situation and a lot of times you’re there for a long time. A lot of people don’t understand that. That was just a line that I felt I had to get off.
You also talk about how you had success in the drug game before you had success in the rap game. What would you be doing right now if you weren’t rapping?
To tell you the truth, I think I would be…I don’t really know. I think I would probably, most likely, be writing books. I think I would be an author if I wasn’t a rapper.
I remember you telling me a year ago that you were working on a poetry book. Did you ever finish that?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t finish that because I was working on a reality show. I’m working on a few things. I’m working on two books at the same time and I’m almost finished. Poobs is working on something too. He’s almost finished with his and I’m almost finished with mine. We’re getting it cracking.
In “Pain”, you also talk about how crooked the rap game is. From you past experiences, is the rap game more crooked than the drug game?
Yeah. I would definitely say yeah. On the outside game, in the street game, you could handle your business a certain way if someone doesn’t handle their business the right way. In this game you can’t. It’s not that simple. You can’t do that here. You can’t just run up in someone’s office and fuck them up.
Do you think a big problem in this game is the lack of accountability a lot of music executives have?
I think the big problem is that people don’t give a fuck if no money is being made. I don’t think people care about the music and the art form and this shit and that shit. I think that plays a big part in it.
In “Pain”, you also talk about how much wack music is accepted by the fans. What music that fans like surprises you the most today?
Fucking damn-near everything, brother, to tell you the truth! It’s mostly everything on the radio. I’m not a big fan of anybody’s radio singles most of the time. I like soul music. I don’t like the shit where somebody makes it with a hook and a beat so they can sell a ringtone. I think almost everything sucks, to tell you the truth, if you want me to be honest. I just feel like this is an art and this is what we do and this is what we’ve done for years. Just go hard with it, man.
I’m just not a big fan of the radio. I like album cuts. My songs are called too hardcore for the radio and you really have to know what you’re doing. When you have a single, the rest of the album you’re supposed to go hard. But that’s not what’s happening. People aren’t going hard. They just care about the single. They don’t care about the album or about having the consumer cop the album. They just don’t give a fuck.
A lot of artists with big singles on the radio don’t have great album sales. Is radio losing its power to sell music today?
Yeah. I think that’s happening a little. Everything’s on the internet and that kind of fucked the sales up and just the overflow of bullshit kind of fucked up the sales.
Do you pay more attention to the internet now?
Yeah. I thought I would never be online. I asked my wife to plug me in on it and show me what’s going on on the ‘net. I have to go sit at the computer, look at sites and get on the MySpace. Shit is crazy. I think that’s just the way of the world now.
The last time we spoke, you said you were going to see American Gangster. Did you check it out?
No, I didn’t get a chance to check it out. I was in North Carolina and VA. My wife bought me the ticket though.
A noose was recently hung around a statue of 2Pac outside his center. What did you think of that?
I think it’s fucked up. A lot of people try to act like racism is not there, but I think when shit like this happens, it shows that racism is there. It’s there. If you ain’t looking at the tea kettle, sooner or later, it’s going to start whistling.
Do you think racism will always exist?
Yeah. I know it sounds fucked up, but there’s always going to be somebody white who can’t stand somebody black. There’s always going to be somebody black who can’t stand somebody white. It all depends where the power lies. A lot of people can’t accept others and it will never be balanced. That’s why there are going to be nooses put up and there’s hate crimes everywhere. What number noose are they on now? 6? I’m sure there were others. Come on. Let’s face reality. Do you mean to tell me if another race was getting this kind of treatment…There would be a problem. Somebody’s head would fly and somebody would pay for something. It’s a long, hard fight and there are a lot of people who try to help with the struggle and they try to take a stand. There are a lot of black people who ain’t helping the struggle. There are people in positions of power who don’t speak up and say anything and then that leaves some shit to happen all over again.
What is the average person’s responsibility today in fighting racism?
I don’t really know. I try to stay calm about this, but I really want heads to fly. How do you teach a grown person to not be immature and ignorant? As a black man, that enrages you. I have a lot of white friends and white people I’m cool with. You feel like everything is always going to be fucked up.
A lot of people pretend racism doesn’t exist today. Has there been more racism in the last few years than in the past 10-20 years?
Yeah. I feel there’s been a lot of racist activity in the past 2-3 years. I feel like it has been building up. In the past, they say racism is dead and it’s not as bad as we say it is and we have to move on. To a lot of black people, that shit is still there and it’s still there, hard. When you try to pretend that something isn’t there, that’s when it really blows up.
It’s like if you have a problem with your wife and you don’t say anything about it. When you do say something about it, shit is going to explode! You have nooses being hung and fights happening. Shit is getting out of hand, man.
Another big issue is the Stop Snitching movement. When I spoke to Hank Shocklee of Public Enemy, he said that people have misconstrued the definition of snitching to where most people consider a snitch to be an innocent bystander who reports a crime. What do you think of that?
I look at Stop Snitching like certain strokes are for certain folks. The Stop Snitching came about with certain criminals and it was directed to certain criminals. It wasn’t directed to people to not call the police. I feel like that’s for the criminal life or the guy that came from the criminal code of ethics. It’s for guys from certain backgrounds. I feel if you have a certain type of character and you live a certain type of life, then certain rules apply to you. And you know what rules go with that. That goes for you being caught doing a crime and not snitching on the other person. That’s why I know it’s for.
It’s not for the people who don’t live a life of crime. It’s not for the neighborhood people. People know. If you’re in a ghetto or you’re in the ‘hood…Everything gets blown out of proportion. Right now, as me and you and speaking, people in the ‘hood know damn-well that somebody’s mother or somebody’s aunt or some nosy-ass neighbor who has nothing to do, if that person sees another person selling crack, they’re going to call the police. The person selling crack knows that. You know the rules. You’re not going to tell an old lady to stop snitching. It’s for two dudes doing something and for one dude to not tell on the other dude. That’s not for the whole world, but certain people should know not to snitch if you’re cut from a certain cloth.
Why do you think the Stop Snitching movement has been taken so out of context?
Media. I think everything in the world that gets taken out of context is from the media and money. They blow everything up, man. Stop Snitching has been around forever. Just because the t-shirts are out now, the idea has been around for years. Don’t tattletale. It’s the same shit.
N.O.R.E. has a journal on HipHopGame where he keeps us updated on what he’s doing. He wrote in one of his journals that you and Sheek got jacked. What have you been doing?
My wife got on my ass. After I broke my leg, I was looking real small. I tried to get my weight back and gained a little weight. I just started hitting the bike every day. I ride a couple of miles and I do the push-ups, dips and hit the gym. I do something real light with some calisthenics. Maybe some light weights here and there. I try to stay in shape and stay healthy.
Hip-hop has never placed a huge emphasis on being healthy. How important is it to focus on health and let the fans see that it’s important?
Being healthy is important to me. I don’t eat chicken. I don’t eat beef. I don’t eat fish. I try to go to the juicebar a lot. I drink wheatgrass and all kinds of shakes. I try to get some garlic and ginger. Just trying to stay healthy is important. I’m a father and a husband and a family man. It’s important to stay healthy and stay in shape and to lead by example.
There’s a ton of speculation that The Lox album is going to Def Jam. How close are you guys to signing a deal for the album?
We’re really just worried about the work first. Everything else right now is like whatever. We’re doing what we have to do to be successful and we’re taking it one step at a time. All of our solo situations are straight. Our priority is the music first. We got an offer from Def Jam but we get offers from everywhere, to tell you the truth. We’re going to stay cool and take it from there.
Will this be the best Lox album to date?
Yeah. We get better as time goes on.
A lot of rappers say you influenced them. What’s the best thing another rapper has told you?
I’ve heard a lot of rappers say they love my work or they listened to my album a lot when they were making their album or they listen to me a lot when they’re doing stuff or that I’m one of their favorites. It feels good when someone respects you back. I learned to respect other artists and it’s cool. It’s all love. It keeps me grinding and it keeps me hungry.
What do you have to do from here on out to make sure Supa Gangsta, Extraordinary Gentleman is successful?
I’m on the everyday grind. I’m in the studio. I’m trying to hit the clubs up. I see a big, important part of hip-hop now is going out every night. You have to shake the hands and kiss the babies. It wasn’t like that before. I’m trying to hit the people with more songs and do more radio and magazine interviews. I’m trying to shake the hands of the DJs in the club and get my young boys on.
What do you want to say to everybody?
December 4, the fourth of December, please remember to get Supa Gangsta, Extraordinary Gentleman. It’s an extraordinary piece or work. I have the DVD coming a month later. You got me hosting the DVD and interviewing other rappers, getting into their heads and getting into their lives. I’m just trying to be progressive and get some things done. Support. If you buy something bootleg, cool, but try to tell someone who will buy the real one about it and try to buy the real one when you get the chance.